Host team Cameroon have powered into the semifinals of the Total Energies Africa Cup of Nations after they defeated the Gambia 2-0 at the Japoma Stadium in Douala on Saturday evening.
Karl Toko Ekambi was the hero for the Indomitable Lions, netting two goals early in the second half to end the fairytale run of the Scorpions, who have massively overachieved on their tournament debut and will leave the Afcon with their heads held high.
Cameroon will now face either Egypt or Morocco (who meet tomorrow evening in their quarterfinal clash) in the first semifinal in Yaounde on Wednesday, February 2.
After a tame start, Cameroon began to build attacking rhythm and momentum around the quarter-hour mark and should have claimed the lead at that time, with Nicolas Moumi Ngamaleu’s cross from the right finding Vincent Aboubakar, but the striker’s flicked effort deflected off defender James Gomez and away to safety.
On 29 minutes, the Indomitable Lions’ Collins Fai tried his luck from long range and sent a powerful effort just wide of Baboucarr Gaye’s left-hand post – though the goalkeeper appeared to have the shot covered had it been on target.
Two minutes later, Cameroon danger man Vincent Aboubakar got in front of Gomez to meet a cross from the right and glanced a header just wide of the target, as the hosts continued to probe in attack and search for a way to draw first blood.
Aboubakar thought he must have done just that on 36 minutes when he met a fine cross from Samuel Oum Gouet and powered a header on target, only to be denied by a brilliant – if somewhat unorthodox – save from Gaye, who had no time to react but spread himself in anticipation and somehow kept the effort out.
Cameroon kept up the pressure in the remainder of the first half, but the interval arrived with the scoreline still blank.
However, the Indomitable Lions needed just five minutes of the second stanza to break through: Fai’s cross from the right found the head of Karl Toko Ekambi, who then directed a header past the right hand of Gaye to put the hosts in charge.
Gambia responded with a triple change on 56 minutes, but in the confusion of trying to sort out their formation, they conceded a second goal just a few moments later, as Martin Hongla got free down the left and provided a low cross for Toko Ekambi to fire home and make it 2-0.
The second goal seemed to remove all jeopardy from the game: the Gambia were still game to try and mount a comeback, but a more relaxed Cameroon settled into a steady passing rhythm and continued to create chances, including Aboubakar shooting just wide with a curling left-footed shot on 73 minutes.
The host team’s skipper had a great chance to put home a third goal in the dying minutes and continue his scoring form, latching onto a rebound after Gaye had denied substitute Clinton N’Jie, but he fired over the target.
Nonetheless, it remained a day to celebrate for the Indomitable Lions, who have moved one step closer to the dream of winning the Nations Cup on home soil.
Cameroon (0) 2 (Toko Ekambi 50’ 57’)
GAMBIA: Gaye, Sonko (Ceesay 85’), Gomez, O. Colley, Modou (Mo. Barrow 56’), Touray, Bobb, Marreh (Jobe 82’), Janko (Darboe 56’), Badamosi (E. Colley 56’), Mu. Barrow
CAMEROON: Onana, Castelletto, Ngadeu, Tolo, Fai (Mbaizo 84’), Hongla (Kunde 81’), Anguissa (Neyou 87’), Oum Gouet, Ngamaleu (Bassogog 88’), Toko Ekambi (N’Jie 81’), Aboubakar
*Courtesy: Backpage TXT